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Experts Weigh In

Turkey, Syria, and the Kurds

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Tashi Rabgey. Research Professor, Elliott School of International Affairs.

"The abrupt change in the US Syria policy has had immediate and devastating effects – from Turkey’s ethnic cleansing operations in Syrian Kurdish territories to the release of ISIS prisoners and destabilization of the region as a whole. Geopolitically, the position of Russia, Iran and the Assad government have been strengthened while US credibility and diplomatic leverage have plummeted to new depths. But as clear as these immediate consequences have been, the sudden reconfiguration of the region also raises questions about the infrastructures of governance that have given shape to the shattered Syrian state over the past eight years of conflict.

Most significant in this regard has been the Kurdish self-governing entity known as Rojava. Formed in 2012 as autonomous enclaves in northern Syria, Rojava grew in scale as Kurdish forces led the assault against ISIS and won back control of Syrian areas far beyond Kurdish territories. The Rojava administration eventually controlled a third of the Syrian state – an area larger than the size of Switzerland. In 2016, the de facto autonomous administration declared itself a new federated region in northern Syria and proposed an asymmetric system of governance for the Syrian state.  

While it lacked recognition and was rejected by the Assad government, the Kurdish-led regional administration managed to persist through the mayhem of war-torn Syria. Indeed, at times it appeared to thrive. Espousing democratic values of ethnic and religious pluralism, gender equality and even ecology, Rojava was, by any measure, an extraordinary political experiment at the heart of one of the most deadliest wars in recent memory. While it was also widely denounced for its connections to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the fact remains that Rojava drew attention to an aspect of statehood that is often overlooked in times of conflict: namely, the role of governance infrastructures in the provision of public goods, in gaining public confidence and in bolstering the social foundations of regional stability.  

With the geopolitical realignment of the region – and more Turkish aggression on the horizon – it is too soon to tell what will become of the Syrian Kurdish experiment with democratic governance and regional state-building. But it is right to acknowledge this de facto Kurdish-led autonomous administration and important to take note of its achievements for future prospects in structuring Syrian statehood."

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School Updates

Photo: Congresswoman Nita M.Lowey delivering remarks at the annual IPDGC Walter Roberts award for Congressional Leadership in Public Diplomacy

Representative Lowey Receives Award for Congressional Leadership in Public Diplomacy

The Institute for Public Diplomacy and Global Communication has awarded the IPDGC Walter Roberts annual award for Congressional Leadership in Public Diplomacy to U.S. Congresswoman Nita M. Lowey, Chair of the House Appropriations Committee. This award is also accompanied by a $5000 grant from the Walter Roberts Endowment to Battery Dance, a program from her district. Read more about her work and this award on the Institute for Public Diplomacy and Global Communication website.

Photo of Sharon Squassoni speaking at a CSIS event

Professor Sharon Squassoni Adds Her Voice to Conversation About the Doomsday Clock

Sharon Squassoni, research professor at the Institute for International Science and Technology, was mentioned in a number of news outlets for her comments on the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ decision to adjust the time on its Doomsday Clock.

The minute hand was moved to 100 seconds before midnight in a metaphorical warning to humanity about the threats from “nuclear war, climate change, and disinformation.” In addition to an interview with BBC Radio, she was also featured in The Washington PostNPRTime, and Science Magazine

Photo: Award icon with a photo of "Of Privacy and Power" by Henry Farrell and Abraham L. Newman

Professor Henry Farrell awarded 2019 Chicago-Kent College of Law/Roy C. Palmer Civil Liberties Prize

Henry Farrell, Associate Professor of Political Science and International Affairs at the Elliott School of International Affairs, and Abraham L. Newman, Professor at Georgetown University's Edmund Walsh School of Foreign Service and Goverment, were awarded a 2019 Chicago-Kent College of Law/Roy C. Palmer Civil Liberties Prize. This award was given to them for their recent book, Of Privacy and Power: The Transatlantic Struggle over Freedom and Security, which explores tensions between civil liberties and national security.


Jillian Dipersio

Jillian Dipersio

BA Candidate, International Affairs

"My research has focused on the social effects of desertification and drought. Through conversations with local professors, livestock famers, and government officials my hope is to propose policy solutions to desertification in the Sahel, a region in Africa."

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